Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
July 26, 2000
The Honorable Gene Gavin
Department of Revenue Services
25 Sigourney Street
Hartford, CT 06106
Dear Commissioner Gavin:
You recently requested an opinion from this office regarding the following question:
Whether DRS may disclose information including the names and/or addresses of rebate check payees who, as a result of the U.S. Postal Services or other reasons, did not receive their checks.
According to an opinion issued by your legal division, disclosure of names and addresses of rebate check payees would violate the confidentiality restrictions contained in Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 12-15. Section 12-15 of the Connecticut General Statutes prohibits the disclosure of any return or return information except under specific circumstances that do not apply here. As discussed in the thorough memorandum written by Frederick Clark of your office, the definitions for "return" and “return information” in sections 12-15(h)(1) and (h)(2) are quite broad.
I agree with your legal division that disclosure of the names and addresses of tax rebate recipients is prohibited under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 12-15 and federal law. First, the names and addresses of many rebate recipients were obtained from return information possessed by the DRS with regard to Connecticut or federal income tax returns, and disclosure is therefore barred under section 12-15. Second, federal law, 26 U.S.C. § 6103(a), prohibits the disclosure of information provided by the Internal Revenue Service to DRS. Third, federal law, 42 U.S.C. §1306(a)(1), and the written agreement between DRS and the Social Security Administration, prohibit the disclosure of names and addresses provided by the Social Security Administration.
In addition, the privacy and policy considerations underlying the strict confidentiality requirements in the Connecticut and federal statutes apply equally to the identity and address of tax rebate recipients, social security recipients, and persons filing tax returns. While I commend your efforts to help these tax rebate recipients, and I agree that every qualified person should be able to obtain his or her rebate, there may be recipients who for whatever reasons, be it the safety of their children or themselves, would oppose the disclosure of their names and addresses.
Of course, you may help tax rebate recipients through other public means that do not violate the statutory confidentiality provisions. As you have likely considered, you may certainly publish notification to the public that DRS has many unclaimed rebate checks, and all persons who meet the qualification requirements and have not yet received their checks should contact DRS to obtain their rebates. Many forms of notification can be provided without naming individuals and their addresses.
In addition, updated addresses for owners of many of the unclaimed checks should be available from later state or federal tax returns or tax data or from social security data. To the extent that you obtain updated addresses, you are certainly free to send the checks, or notice of the availability of the checks, to those updated addresses.
I would also like to note that the unclaimed rebates may be considered unclaimed property under section 3-62a of the Connecticut General Statutes. The Department’s duties under the unclaimed property laws are set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat. §3-65a. Any notice published by the Treasurer in accordance with Conn. Gen. Stat. §3-66a would not violate Conn. Gen. Stat. §12-15 or any federal law because such notice would not identify the source of the funds held by the Treasurer.
We hope that this information is of assistance to you. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions or comments regarding this matter.
Very truly yours,
John G. Haines
Assistant Attorney General